The timing of Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe's trip to Ottawa was perfect.
While it was a GMs' haven in the Scotiabank Place press box last night with Chicago's Dale Tallon and Anaheim's Brian Burke on hand, Lowe might have been the most interested observer.
With the return of centre Jason Spezza to the Senators' lineup against the Mighty Ducks after missing most of the past month with a chest injury, Lowe was able to do extra work in his dual role as assistant GM for Team Canada at next month's Olympics in Turin.
Though Lowe had already been assured by Senators GM John Muckler last Saturday in Edmonton that Spezza was going to be fine, this was another opportunity for Lowe to see why the Canadian staff decided to the give the young centre a chance on the three-man taxi squad.
"He's come a long way and he's really matured," Lowe told the Sun during the first intermission last night. "Obviously, the chemistry that (Spezza) has developed with Dany Heatley played a role in our decision. Spezza has really turned out to be one of the great players in the league.
"We really felt like he's shown a lot of progress and that's why we wanted to give him a chance. We tried to stay consistent with the players that we chose and if he gets a chance, we feel like he can contribute."
Lowe came armed with good news for Spezza as well. The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced it's going to allow Carolina's Eric Staal, Toronto's Bryan McCabe and Spezza to practise and interact with Team Canada. Yes, they'll have to stay in a hotel located in the city because they aren't part of the regular roster, but they'll be given accreditation to the athletes' village and they'll be able to spend the whole day with their teammates.
"They'll be at all our meetings and all our practices and that's good news for us because they're going to be part of the team and they're going to feel like they are part of the team. I know there was some concern about that," said Lowe.
Unfortunately, Spezza wasn't at his best against the Ducks. He didn't decide until after the morning skate at that he was ready to return to the lineup and that's when coach Bryan Murray finalized his line combinations.
The Senators wanted to make sure Spezza was 100%. The run for the playoffs after the Olympics is going to be long and the club wasn't going to take any chances, which is why Murray took every precaution.
"The last time I came back, I was trying to see if I could play injured and I wasn't really ready and I wasn't able to contribute," said Spezza. "This time, if I (get injured again), it's not because I came back too early or anything. I'm feeling good and I'm feeling like I'm ready to go."
BOCHENSKI ON BUBBLE
But the return of Spezza to the lineup is not good news for everybody. It was easy for Murray to scratch blueliner Christoph Schubert, who has been playing as a fourth-line winger, but the situation will change with the return of Brandon Bochenski.
Once Bochenski is fully recovered from a bruised shoulder -- that could be as early as tomorrow when the Leafs are in town -- then the Senators are going to have make a roster move.
Muckler, trying to save every penny he can under the salary cap, isn't going carry more than one extra player and that's going to be Schubert.
Given the way the rookie Patrick Eaves has performed -- he scored his 10th goal of the season last night -- Ottawa won't be sending him down, which means Bochenski will likely be sent to Binghamton of the AHL.
Bochenski has missed the better part of five weeks -- and can be sent down without having to clear waivers -- so the playing time might do him good.